Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The book you scroll

I was traveling in Italy where I spend a lot of time in bookstores. I'm looking not only for books to read, but to discover new authors, since Italian bookstores are filled with translations of authors that I rarely see in the few bookstores remaining in my home town of Berkeley, CA. While there I came across something that I find fascinating: the flipback book. These books are small - the one I picked up is about 4 3/4" x 3 1/4". It feels like a good-sized package of post-it notes in your hand.

 From the outside, other than its size, looks "normal" although the cover design is in landscape rather than portrait  position.

The surprise is when you open the book. The first thing you notice is that you read the book top-to-bottom across two pages. It's almost like scrolling on a web page, because you move the pages up, not across.

The other thing is that they are incredibly compact. The paper is thin, and some of the books contained entire trilogies, although only about 2 - 2.5 inches thick.

Because there is no gutter between the two pages, you essentially get a quantity of text that is equal to what you get on a regular book page. Oddly, the two contiguous pages are numbered as separate pages, although only the odd numbers actually printed, so you have pages 37, 39, 41, etc. However, the actual number of open pages is about the same as the paperback book.

The font is a sans serif, similar to many used online, so that whole thing feels like a paper book imitating a computer screen.

I haven't read the book yet, so I don't know if the reading experience is pleasing. But I am amazed that someone has found a way to reinvent the print book after all these years. Patented, of course.

There are few titles available yet, but an Amazon search on "flipback" brings up a few.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Philosophical Musings: The Work

We can't deny the idea of work - opera, oeuvre - as a cultural product, a meaningful bit of human-created stuff. The concept exists, the word exists. I question, however that we will ever have, or that we should ever have, precision in how works are bounded; that we'll ever be able to say clearly that the film version of Pride and Prejudice is or is not the same work as the book. I'm not even sure that we can say that the text of Pride and Prejudice is a single work. Is it the same work when read today that it was when first published? Is it the same work each time that one re-reads it? The reading experience varies based on so many different factors - the cultural context of the reader; the person's understanding of the author's language; the age and life experience of the reader.

The notion of work encompasses all of the complications of human communication and its consequent meaning. The work is a mystery, a range of possibilities and of possible disappointments. It has emotional and, at its best, transformational value. It exists in time and in space. Time is the more canny element here because it means that works intersect our lives and live on in our memories, yet as such they are but mere ghosts of themselves.

Take a book, say, Moby Dick; hundreds of pages, hundreds of thousands of words. We read each word, but we do not remember the words -- we remember the book as inner thoughts that we had while reading. Those could be sights and smells, feelings of fear, love, excitement, disgust. The words, external, and the thoughts, internal, are transformations of each other; from the author's ideas to words, and from the words to the reader's thoughts. How much is lost or gained during this process is unknown. All that we do know is that, for some people at least, the experience is vivid one. The story takes on some meaning in the mind of the reader, if one can even invoke the vague concept of mind without torpedoing the argument altogether.

Brain scientists work to find the place in the maze of neuronic connections that can register the idea of "red" or "cold" while outside of the laboratory we subject that same organ to the White Whale, or the Prince of Denmark, or the ever elusive Molly Bloom. We task that organ to taste Proust's madeleine; to feel the rage of Ahab's loss; to become a neighbor in one of Borges' villages. If what scientists know about thought is likened to a simple plastic ping-pong ball, plain, round, regular, white, then a work is akin to a rainforest of diversity and discovery, never fully mastered, almost unrecognizable from one moment to the next.

As we move from textual works to musical ones, or on to the visual arts, the transformation from the work to the experience of the work becomes even more mysterious. Who hasn't passed quickly by an unappealing painting hanging on the wall of a museum before which stands another person rapt with attention. If the painting doesn't speak to us, then we have no possible way of understanding what it is saying to someone else.

Libraries are struggling to define the work as an abstract but well-bounded, nameable thing within the mass of the resources of the library. But a definition of work would have to be as rich and complex as the work itself. It would have to include the unknown and unknowable effect that the work will have on those who encounter it; who transform it into their own thoughts and experiences. This is obviously impractical. It would also be unbelievably arrogant (as well as impossible) for libraries to claim to have some concrete measure of "workness" for now and for all time. One has to be reductionist to the point of absurdity to claim to define the boundaries between one work and another, unless they are so far apart in their meaning that there could be no shared messages or ideas or cultural markers between them. You would have to have a way to quantify all of the thoughts and impressions and meanings therein and show that they are not the same, when "same" is a target that moves with every second that passes, every synapse that is fired.

Does this mean that we should not try to surface workness for our users? Hardly. It means that it is too complex and too rich to be given a one-dimensional existence within the current library system. This is, indeed, one of the great challenges that libraries present to their users: a universe of knowledge organized by a single principle as if that is the beginning and end of the story. If the library universe and the library user's universe find few or no points of connection, then communication between them fails. At best, like the user of a badly designed computer interface, if any communication will take place it is the user who must adapt. This in itself should be taken the evidence of superior intelligence on the part of the user as compared to the inflexibility of the mechanistic library system.

Those of us in knowledge organization are obsessed with neatness, although few as much as the man who nearly single-handled defined our profession in the late 19th century; the man who kept diaries in which he entered the menu of every meal he ate; whose wedding vows included a mutual promise never to waste a minute; the man enthralled with the idea that every library be ordered by the simple mathematical concept of the decimal.

To give Dewey due credit, he did realize that his Decimal Classification had to bend reality to practicality. As the editions grew, choices had to be made on where to locate particular concepts in relation to others, and in early editions, as the Decimal Classification was used in more libraries and as subject experts weighed in, topics were relocated after sometimes heated debate. He was not seeking a platonic ideal or even a bibliographic ideal; his goal was closer to the late 19th century concept of efficiency. It was a place for everything, and everything in its place, for the least time and money.

Dewey's constraints of an analog catalog, physical books on physical shelves, and a classification and index printed in book form forced the limited solution of just one place in the universe of knowledge for each book. Such a solution can hardly be expected to do justice to the complexity of the Works on those shelves. Today we have available to us technology that can analyze complex patterns, can find connections in datasets that are of a size way beyond human scale for analysis, and can provide visualizations of the findings.

Now that we have the technological means, we should give up the idea that there is an immutable thing that is the work for every creative expression. The solution then is to see work as a piece of information about a resource, a quality, and to allow a resource to be described with as many qualities of work as might be useful. Any resource can have the quality of the work as basic content, a story, a theme. It can be a work of fiction, a triumphal work, a romantic work. It can be always or sometimes part of a larger work, it can complement a work, or refute it. It can represent the philosophical thoughts of someone, or a scientific discovery. In FRBR, the work has authorship and intellectual content. That is precisely what I have described here. But what I have described is not based on a single set of rules, but is an open-ended description that can grow and change as time changes the emotional and informational context as the work is experienced.

I write this because we risk the petrification of the library if we embrace what I have heard called the "FRBR fundamentalist" view. In that view, there is only one definition of work (and of each other FRBR entity). Such a choice might have been necessary 50 or even 30 years ago. It definitely would have been necessary in Dewey's time. Today we can allow ourselves greater flexibility because the technology exists that can give us different views of the same data. Using the same data elements we can present as many interpretations of Work as we find useful. As we have seen recently with analyses of audio-visual materials, we cannot define work for non-book materials identically to that of books or other texts. [1] [2] Some types of materials, such as works of art, defy any separation between the abstraction and the item. Just where the line will fall between Work and everything else, as well as between Works themselves, is not something that we can pre-determine. Actually, we can, I suppose, and some would like to "make that so", but I defy such thinkers to explain just how such an uncreative approach will further new knowledge.

[1] Kara Van Malssen. BIBFRAME A-V modeling study
[2] Kelley McGrath. FRBR and Moving Images

Thursday, September 04, 2014

WP:NOTABILITY (and Women)

I've been spending quite a bit of time lately following the Wikipedia pages of "Articles for Deletion" or WP:AfD in Wikipedia parlance. This is a fascinating way to learn about the Wikipedia world. The articles for deletion fall mostly into a few categories:
  1. Brief mentions of something that someone once thought interesting (a favorite game character, a dearly loved soap opera star, a heartfelt local organization) but that has not been considered important by anyone else. In Wikipedian, it lacks WP:NOTABILITY.
  2. Highly polished P.R. intended to make someone or something look more important than it is, knowing that Wikipedia shows up high on search engine results, and that any site linked to from Wikipedia also gets its ranking boosted.
Some of #2 is actually created by companies that are paid to get their clients into Wikipedia along with promoting them in other places online. Another good example is that of authors of self-published books, some of whom appear to be more skilled in P.R. than they are in the literary arts.

In working through a few of the fifty or more articles proposed for deletion each day, you get to do some interesting sleuthing. You can see who has edited the article, and what else they have edited; any account that has only edited one article could be seen as a suspected bogus account created just for that purpose. Or you could assume that only one person in the English-speaking world has any interest in this topic at all.

Most of the work, though, is in seeing if you can establish notability. Notability is not a precise measure, and there are many pages of policy and discussion on the topic. The short form is that for something or someone to be notable, it has to be written about in respected, neutral, third-party publications. Thus a New York Times book review is good evidence of notability for a book, while a listing in the Amazon book department is not. The grey area is wide, however. Publisher's Weekly may or may not indicate notability, since they publish only short paragraphs, and cover about 7,000 books a year. That's not very discriminating.

Notability can be tricky. I recently came across an article for deletion pointing to Elsie Finnimore Buckley, a person I had never heard of before. I discovered that her dates were 1882-1959, and she was primarily a translator of works from French into English. She did, though, write what appears to have been a popular book of Greek tales for young people.

As a translator, her works were listed under "E. F. Buckley." I can well imagine that if she had used her full name it would not have been welcome on the title page of the books she translated. Some of the works she translated appear to have a certain stature, such as works by Franz Funck-Brentano. She has an LC name authority file under "Buckley, E. F." although her full name is added in parentheses: "(Elsie Finnimore)".

To understand what it was like for women writers, one can turn to Linda Peterson's book "Becoming a Woman of Letters and the fact of the Victorian market." In that, she quotes a male reviewer of Buckley's Greek tales, which she did publish under her full name. His comments are enough to chill the aspirations of any woman writer. He said that writing on such serious topics is "not women's work" and that "a woman has neither the knowledge nor the literary tact necessary for it." (Peterson, p. 58) Obviously, her work as a translator is proof otherwise, but he probably did not know of that work.

Given this attitude toward women as writers (of anything other than embroidery patterns and luncheon menus) it isn't all that surprising that it's not easy to establish WP:NOTABILITY for women writers of that era. As Dale Spender says in "Mothers of the Novel; 100 good women writers before Jane Austen":
"If the laws of literary criticism were to be made explicit they would require as their first entry that the sex of the author is the single most important factor in any test of greatness and in any preservation for posterity." (p. 137)
That may be a bit harsh, but it illustrates the problem that one faces when trying to rectify the prejudices against women, especially from centuries past, while still wishing to provide valid proof that this woman's accomplishments are worthy of an encyclopedia entry.

We know well that many women writers had to use male names in order to be able to publish at all. Others, like E.F. Buckley, hid behind initials. Had her real identity been revealed to the reading public, she might have lost her work as a translator. Of late, J.K. Rowling has used both techniques, so this is not a problem that we left behind with the Victorian era. As I said in the discussion on Wikipedia:
"It's hard to achieve notability when you have to keep your head down."

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Linking, really linking

Some time ago I posted a bit of wishful thinking about linking search engine results to library holdings. Now Overdrive has made this a reality, at least in Bing:

This appears in the "extended information" area of a Bing search for the Girl with a Dragon Tattoo trilogy. This is based on you having an Overdrive account and I believe you may also have to have given the browser permission to use your location.




I don't usually use Bing, and so I was unaware that Bing has made much better use of linked data (in part promoted by the use of schema.org standards) than Google. Here is the Google extended sidebar for the same book:
Google results
Now look at what Bing provides:
Bing results
 
If you can't see that there are advantages to linked data after looking at these examples, then, like the global warming deniers, you just don't want to be confused by the facts. Now to get on to how we can make library offerings as rich as this.

**HT to Eric Hellman for blogging this from ALA.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Let's link!

Tom Johnson responded to a statement of mine in which I said that we need non-programmer tools for linked data work. He asked for case studies, and so I'm going to do some "off the top of my head" riffing here, just to see what might come of it.

First, let me say a little something about some analogous technology. Let's take HTML. I'm one of those folks who learned HTML many decades ago when all you needed was <p>, <i>, <b> and maybe <hr>. With these, you could create a web page. Web pages in those days didn't have banners, sidebars, tables ... adding an image was going all fancy. There were no WYSIWYG tools because it was very simple to create such a web page. Then we got more sophisticated formatting (server-side includes, side bars, tables(!)), and now there is a whole programming language called CSS to handle page creation (and destruction, since CSS is very complex.) It doesn't take much looking around to understand that most people today need TOOLS to create a web page and lots of tools exist, tools that cost little or nothing (WordPress, Drupal) and can be used by folks who've never written 50 lines of working code.

Essentially, on the web today, a few people are providing the structure and the tools, but most folks are providing content without knowing the guts of the technology. Content is, in my mind, the actual goal of the web; technology is the means.

I've spent a lot of time talking to folks about linked data, but linked data is not itself a goal. I've started trying to move the conversation from the underlying technology to what I see as the real goal: making connections -- connections between concepts, ideas, statements about things. This is inherently more social than technical, but of course it needs the technology behind it in order to work. The easier it is for people to make connections, the more connections they will make.

The problem that I'm seeing today in the linked data space is that we don't have an idea of what kinds of connections people will want to make, or what they will do with them. I don't think we're going to know until we apply some scientific method to the problem -- that is, try, fail, try again, rinse, repeat.

I created a really funky web page with one idea. The page looks like this:



It talks about having the ability to profile types of data that can then be selected in the content of the page. Each of these will then pull additional content (maps, term definitions, biographical information)  from available linkable data into the page. This could begin as a very simple application with only a small number of options, as a proof of concept. (WordPress?) I'm sure that others can greatly improve on it.  Take a look at the display in the FAO AGRIS catalog to get an idea of how this might look with a better display.

Have at it, please.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Works, Expressions, and the Bibliographic Universe

In 1545, Conrad Gessner set about to create a bibliography of everything ever published, the Bibliotheca Universalis. He nearly succeeded. In 2004, Google set about to create a digital universal library by digitizing millions of books from library shelves. Shortly thereafter the Internet Archive began a project, the Open Library, to create "One web page for every book ever written." Meanwhile, OCLC's WorldCat has grown to over 300 million records from 72,000 libraries. All of these exemplify the concept of some universal bibliography or database that make up what I am calling, for now, the bibliographic universe.

The other side of this coin is the catalog of an individual library (or library consortium). This bibliographic data set is expressly designed to be local, not universal. It does not include materials not available to the library user, and what it does include has been selected with that library's constituency in mind.

The FRBR study is a conceptual view of this "bibliographic universe"; that is, an abstract view of intellectual resources and their relations to each other. To say that Magic Mountain is a translation of Der Zauberberg is to make a statement that is unrelated to any actual example of that text, much less the holdings within any individual library. We can conclude that FRBR addresses bibliographic data universally because it claims to be agnostic to any particular usage of the bibliographic concept, and to be able to define any and all bibliographic resources and their relationships.

The problem that arises, as I see it, is where this universal view meets the individual library. Do you express these relationships between items in your library, or do you express the relationships in the bibliographic universe? If your library has Magic Mountain in English and Spanish, but not in German, should you organize your presentation of data around the original German version, even if your users will not be able to read or understand the title in that language? What if you only have the English version - should this be displayed as a manifestation of a translation of the original German text? Is there a purpose to creating bibliographic information about relationships between works, even if the library does not hold those works?

A key question that we need to ask is: what is the purpose of providing these bibliographic relationships? The answer that I believe I would get from catalogers today is that the purpose of this information is to provide an organized view of the library to the user. While in a large library, works and expressions may be organizing principles, in a small library with often only one version of the resource, the addition of information about the work and the expression could be more disorganization than organization, because it doesn't give the user a more organized view of the library's holdings but adds information that may be confusing. This doesn't mean that the information about works and expressions isn't useful - the work and expression could be used to provide interesting information to the user, but in this case they do not provide a useful organizing function in the catalog.

As far as I can tell, neither FRBR nor the cataloging rules (past and present) clearly differentiate between organizing a library, organizing a larger context within which the library operates, or describing the bibliographic universe. I'll accept that organizing the bibliographic universe is probably out of scope in today's world, but where does one draw the line between the individual library and the larger useful bibliographic context that might be useful to your library users?

This is not a new problem. AACR2 introduced the idea of the work by adding the uniform title to the catalog record. The uniform title turned out to be less uniformly used than perhaps was intended because it was not applied by catalogers to all records where it was applicable. In a library with only one (or a small number) of editions of a work, the uniform title was deemed to be either unnecessary or not worth the time of the cataloger. This worked fine in individual libraries but caused problems for sharing and in union catalogs. It also makes it more difficult to move from today's cataloging records to a FRBR-ized catalog, since the essential clues about works are not provided consistently.

FRBR is a conceptual model, but it isn't clear to me what context it is modeling: a library catalog, the conceptual collective of all or most library catalogs, or the bibliographic universe. The original task was to model the essential things of a library bibliographic record to respond to a set of user tasks.  However, at the 30,000 foot level at which FRBR operated, the questions about how one would serve users in a particular library is left open. The FRBR user tasks are a look at the existing concept of a library catalog and what one mythical "user" does when approaching it. It also is a look from the point of view of a large library catalog: no one on the study group was from a small or even medium-sized library. FRBR is very much a top-down look at the bibliographic world. If we look at the library bibliographic world from the bottom up -- either looking from the point of view of individual users, or of individual libraries, then we would need to see the FRBR concepts as possibilities, not requirements; possibilities to be used as appropriate for ones particular situation.

We know that a given library serves its particular users, not the "universe of users." The best service for a library's users is to allow the library to make choices that are appropriate for those users. For that reason, requiring libraries to present, in their catalogs, data that has the bibliographic universe as its context is going to be detrimental to library service. At the same time, it would be ideal to have a true catalog of the bibliographic universe available from which a library could draw information or could create links as a way to expand its catalog information for users who need more. For example, the user who looks up the Chicago Manual of Style should be able to learn if the copy the library holds is the latest version. The user looking for "Harry Potter" and seeing that the library has copies in English and Spanish should be able to ask if the book was translated into Vietnamese (yes) or Tegulu (no).

It would be naive to say that we have no use for a bibliotheca universalis. However, a bibliotheca universalis is not a library catalog. It would also be naive to say that every library has the same needs regarding bibliographic data. What we seem to be lacking is the way to bridge the gap between the 30,000 foot FRBR bibliographic view and the needs of the individual library. I think we have the technology to do this today, and some of the possible answers can be found in general databases like WorldCat or DBPedia. It's the connection between these that needs to be designed.

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

FRBR group 1: the gang of four

(This is a very delayed follow on to my earlier  post on FRBR groups 2 and 3. It's not that I haven't been thinking about it... and I hope soon to be able to post my talk from FSR2014 on FRBR, as well.) 

Parts vs. views

Each of the three FRBR groups is defined briefly in the introduction to section 3 of the FRBR document. The second and third groups have fairly concrete definitions:
group 2 "...those responsible for the intellectual or artistic content, the physical production and dissemination, or the custodianship of the entities in the first group"

group 3 "...an additional set of entities that serve as the subjects of works"
The definition of Group 1 is more complex and considerably less clear:
"The entities in the first group (as depicted in Figure 3.1) represent the different aspects of user interests in the products of intellectual or artistic endeavour." [FRBR, p. 13]
Where groups 2 and 3 are made up of similar but independent things (which is a common definition of a class of things), group 1 consists of aspects of a single thing ("intellectual or artistic endeavor"). The term "aspects" can be defined as either parts of something or points of view about something. The difference between "parts" vs. "points of view" is important. Parts could be defined as simple, observable facts, such as the parts of a particular automobile (motor, chassis, wheels). These are characteristics of the thing itself, independent of the observer. Points of view, of course, vary for each viewer and perhaps each viewing. This would fit with the FRBR document's statement on the work:
"The concept of what constitutes a work and where the line of demarcation lies between one work and another may in fact be viewed differently from one culture to another. Consequently the bibliographic conventions established by various cultures or national groups may differ in terms of the criteria they use for determining the boundaries between one work and another." [FRBR p. 17]
That the FRBR document states that the entities are aspects of user interests rather than aspects of an intellectual endeavor implies that the entities of group 1 are not parts of the endeavor, but constructions in the minds of users. From the remainder of the FRBR document, in particular the areas where the attributes are defined for each entity, it is clear that the FRBR Study Group chose to define the bibliographic description of intellectual endeavors as a single point of view. For each entity, the Study Group has a provided a set of elements that are each defined for only that one entity, with no concession made for different points of view or interests. This is, however, in spite of the statement above that communities may have different views.

To reinforce the view of group 1 as parts of a whole, there exist dependencies between the group 1 entities such that, with the exception of work, each can only exist in combination with certain others to which it is linked. Therefore none represents a whole on its own. (In fact, there is no concept of a whole bibliographic description in FRBR. That would need to come from a different analysis.) The definitions of the entities express these dependencies.
"work: a distinct intellectual or artistic creation." [FRBR, p.17]
"expression: the intellectual or artistic realization of a work in the form of alpha-numeric, musical, or choreographic notation, sound, image, object, movement, etc., or any combination of such forms." [FRBR p. 19]
"manifestation: the physical embodiment of an expression of a work." [FRBR p. 21]
"item: a single exemplar of a manifestation" [FRBR p. 24]
as does the description of the cardinality of the relationships:
"The relationships depicted in the diagram indicate that a work may be realized through one or more than one expression (hence the double arrow on the line that links work to expression). An expression, on the other hand, is the realization of one and only one work (hence the single arrow on the reverse direction of that line linking expression to work). An expression may be embodied in one or more than one manifestation; likewise a manifestation may embody one or more than one expression. A manifestation, in turn, may be exemplified by one or more than one item; but an item may exemplify one and only one manifestation." [FRBR pp. 13-14]
This directionality, or fixed order, of the dependencies is the source of the image of group 1 as a hierarchy, where each entity connects to the entity "above" it. But there is more than one interpretation of these definitions. Taniguchi [taniguchi] reads the description of the entities as a "Russian doll" with each succeeding entity containing the previous ones. In the definitions of expression, manifestation, and item, above, each entity appears to encapsulate the one or ones above it in the diagram ("the physical embodiment of an expression of a work"). When diagrammed, this view would look like:

(Note that this does not exclude the one-to-many and many-to-many relationships as long as both expressions and manifestations can be part of more than one nested structure.)

The other interpretation, which is the most common interpretation of the entity-relation diagrams, is similar to a database design where each entity represents a single set of data elements that can be shared in one-to-many or many-to-many relationships. This view presents the four aspects as separate entities with strict relationships between them.

I perceive a contradiction between the verbal definitions in the document and the diagrams, which one presumes are intended to represent the information in the text. The decision to represent the group 1 entities as separate parts and without any overlap in data elements is a conceptual reduction of the definitions that are given early in the document, and no where does the document state that such a decision was made. There could be good reasons to implement the FRBR group 1 concepts in a particular technology as a simplified structure, but it is clear to me that the model in the diagrams is not as rich as the concepts in the text would allow.

Process

Some interpretations of FRBR treat the work, expression and manifestation as a process or continuum, moving from the idea in the creator’s mind, to an expression of that creation, and then to a manifestation where the expression becomes "manifest" or physical in nature.
"Content relationships can be viewed as a continuum from works/expressions/manifestations/items. Moving left to right along this continuum we start with some original work and related works and expressions and manifestations that can be considered ‘equivalent,’ that is, they share the same intellectual or artistic content as realized through the same mode of expression." [tillett p. 4]
The FRBR group 1 "continuum of entities" runs into problems when faced with the reality of publishing and packaging. While the line from work to expression to manifestation may follow some ideal logic, it may have been more functional to separate the description of the package from its intellectual contents. Instead, manifestation, as described in FRBR, is still based on the traditional catalog entry that mixes content and carrier by including creators, titles, and edition information, which better fit the definition of expression than manifestation.

Most explanations of work, expression, manifestation, item (WEMI) move from work to expression, then to manifestation, in that order, and most give only a slight nod to item. But in terms of cataloger workflow, WEM is a single unit that is encountered with the item in hand. While you may be able to store information about a work or expression separately in a database, you cannot separate the work from the expression or the manifestation in real life.

Agency

FRBR provides a static view of the bibliographic resource with little agency. The entities simply exist, they are not described as created as the result of an action. In fact, the entities seem to be actors themselves, as when the expression "realizes" the work. It would make more sense to say that the expression entity is the realization of the work, and that some sentient being acts to create the expression. Instead, in FRBR some unnamed magic occurs between the work and the expression. The same is true of the manifestation, which should be the result of some action that produces a physical manifestation of the expression of the work.

This static view is compatible with library cataloging, which is mainly interested in describing the item in hand as a single unit. The development of a model that emphasizes relationships between creative outputs begs for a more actor-centered view of the bibliographic universe. One could argue that it is precisely the intervention of specific actors that creates a differentiation between entities. The same music piece performed by different musicians, or the same musicians at a different time, must be a different expression. The "studio cut" and the "director's cut" of a film are either different expressions or different works (depending on your definition of work), based on the agent in control. Adding agent intervention to the model could be useful in developing clearer rules for the determination of separate entities during the cataloging process.

Conclusion

While FRBR groups 2 and 3 are composed of real world things (in the semantic web sense), group 1 appears to be an analysis of the current data of bibliographic records. The division of attributes into the four "boxes" of WEMI does not introduce new data elements but partitions the existing bibliographic record among the entities. The resulting group 1 picture resembles ISBD rather than AACR/MARC in that it is a static view of a bibliographic "done deal" with no indication of agents or subjects. Others have noticed that there are neither creator no subject attributes among the listed attributes for the work -- instead, these are included in the model as relationships defined between groups 2 and 3 and group 1. This is a logical outcome of the use of the database design methodology where data is stored for subsequent use but is not part of a data creator or data user workflow.

In the past bibliographic description has been unitarian, with one record representing one, indivisible bibliographic thing. FRBR posits a quatritarian view of the same data. The difficulty, however, is that the FRBR group 1 is not like the division of an automobile into chassis, motor and wheels; instead, where one draws the line between the separate aspects of the FRBR quaternity -- or whether one prefers a unitarian, duotarian or even a quintitarian approach -- is not based on empirical data, but on one's particular point of view. That point of view is not arbitrary, but has many factors based on material type, organization type, and the needs of the users. FRBR's four-part bibliographic description is one possibility. It may represent a particular bibliographic view, but one cannot expect that it represents all bibliographic views, either in libraries or beyond them.


[FRBR] IFLA Study Group on the Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. (2009). Functional Requirements for Bibliographic Records. Retrieved from http://archive.ifla.org/VII/s13/frbr/frbr_2008.pdf

[taniguchi] Shoichi Taniguchi. “A conceptual model giving primacy to expression-level bibliographic entity in cataloging”, Journal of Documentation, Vol. 58 Iss: 4, 2002. pp.363 – 382. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/00220410210431109

[tillett] Tillett, B. What is FRBR? A conceptual model for the bibliographic universe. (p. 8). Washington, DC. 2003. http://www.loc.gov/cds/downloads/FRBR.PDF